Home boy inhales toy Doctors stumped by boy’s strange whistling cough — until they took a...

Doctors stumped by boy’s strange whistling cough — until they took a scan of his lungs – National

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It was a wheeze and a whistle that led parents in India to take their four-year-old son to the doctor.

He had been coughing persistently for two days, and every so often, his breathing was punctuated with a high-pitched whistle.

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According to a case study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, aside from the cough, the boy felt fine. He had no signs of a viral infection in his upper respiratory tract and no history of any problems.

When doctors did a physical exam, they found no obvious problems aside from an “expiratory wheeze” in his middle and lower left lung – meaning a continuous, high-pitched whistle that often indicates some kind of airway obstruction.


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So doctors took an X-ray of the boy’s chest. This is when they started to narrow in on the problem. The boy’s left lung was hyperinflated – a sign that the air wasn’t getting out properly, which is often caused by a foreign object in the lung. Although they couldn’t see what was in there, they decided to go in.

They performed a rigid bronchoscopy, sliding a camera and instrument into the boy’s airway to take a look. They came out with a white plastic toy whistle that was lodged in the boy’s lung.

He had been playing with a whistle before he started coughing in the first place, his parents said. Now, they knew what happened to it.


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Foreign body aspiration, or having foreign objects lodged in the lungs or trachea is a common problem, according to an article in the Postgraduate Medical Journal. Most cases are in toddlers, and they usually involve food, like nuts, seeds and bones. It can be a very serious issue, even leading to death. Aspiration is the fourth leading cause of injury hospitalizations and death in children under four, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society.

Thankfully, another X-ray taken the next day showed that the boy’s lung was back to normal. A year later, he was still doing fine, though maybe was more careful around whistles.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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